World War I Soldier Slang

imagesMuch of what I read is directly related to the historical novels I write. I read The Long Trail: What Soldiers and Sailors Sang and Said in the Great War, learned a lot that was useful to my writing. It is filled with definitions of the vast number of phrases the soldiers developed to talk with each other. It gave me words and phrases to use–and to avoid–since the descriptions often had a date or event when the phrase came into use. Since The Angel of Mons: A World War I Legend appeared on the very first day of the war, all the phrases and words I took had to be in use by then. Nothing later. The lexicon even has a bizarre reference to The Angel of Mons. By Eric Partridge and John Brophy.

Eric Partridge, later in life.

Eric Partridge, later in life.

I just read it again, since The Crowning Battle of The Great War: The Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel takes place on September 29, 1918, I will find many more terms and phrases to consider giving my characters to say.

My friend and expert in the 30th Division and the Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel, Jim Legg, a military archaeologist, told me about Lingo of No Man’s Land: A World War I Slang Dictionary (Originally subtitled The War Time Lexicon) by Lorenzo Napoleon Smith, a soldier in the Canadian Army. The book has many terms that are not in The Long Trail and additional defining terms for the ones the two books share. It has many phrases, for example, that the soldiers used for lice beyond cootie.

Author: Lorenzo Napoleon

Author: Lorenzo Napoleon

It is wonderful to see the attitude or view the phrase expressed. Many ridicule officers and the enemy. Many, too difficult for me to use, are Cockney slang, a complicated set of word changes. An example, though not precisely accurate, is why Columbia, South Carolina is known locally as Soda City. Columbia is often shortened to Cola, which is a soda. Hence, Soda City.

 

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